Saturday, November 21, 2015

Children's Programming and Left Wing Thought

Today, while flicking through channels, I came upon an animated movie that provided almost a perfect example of the liberal world view. It so perfectly illustrated the liberal mindset I described in "Liberalism, Its Origins and Consequences" and elsewhere1, that I felt it was worth taking a more detailed look.

The basic plot is nothing new, in fact it is such a pedestrian plot in its broad outlines that it amazes me I never noticed before how many of these children's films follow the liberal view of the state. Well, to be fair, perhaps it is not so surprising, as the liberal view also follows a rather commonplace plot line from any number of juvenile tales, that being the "lone voice in the wilderness" standing up against a popular mistake2. So, I suppose, it is difficult to tell at times if a given book or film is simply reusing a tired, juvenile plotline, or is embracing the liberal philosophy which sadly seems to be based upon that plotline. Since it is hard to tell if the story is pushing an immature fantasy, or an immature political philosophy based on that fantasy, I will, for the moment, not worry about the question and assume, whichever is the primary intent, because the two goals are so close, to embrace one is to embrace the other.

So, back to our film. In "Over the Hedge", a fast talking raccoon tries to steal food from a hibernating bear. In the process, the food is destroyed and the bear threatens to kill the raccoon. The raccoon promises to restore the food by the full moon (in a week), or face the bear's wrath. While trying to find a way to carry this out, the raccoon stumbles across a "family" of various animals (a skunk, some porcupines, a few  opossums, a squirrel and some others), led by a wise, cautious turtle who decides what is safe by the tingling of his tail. This group has led a sensible, safe existence by constantly preparing for winter, dutifully filling up a hollow trunk with food, all under the turtle's sage, but sensitive, leadership.

Seeing an opportunity, the raccoon exposes this group to stolen human food, hoping to tempt them with tasty junk food into gathering up what he needs to pay off the bear. And, as expected, they fall for it, being led astray by superficial wants, rather than fulfill their "true needs." Of course, only the wise turtle understands this, and tries to return them to the "right way", but he is largely ignored3. Of course, this eventually leads to trouble for the family of animals, from which the turtle manages to eventually rescue them. And, in the end, the raccoon comes around and sees the value of "the right way".

I know, not exactly an unusual story, but it is striking how well it fits with the liberal view of reality. After all, what is liberalism but the view that people need to be protected from themselves? That they often place superficial "wants" above "true needs"4? That at times this blindness is exploited by sinister forces? And at others simply misleads the blind, ignorant masses into wrong choices? How often do we hear the left bemoan the workers acting against their "class interest"? Questioning why they are so slow to unionize? Worrying that but for the state, the masses would inevitably make "the wrong choice" on this issue or that? In short, what is liberalism but an elitist philosophy the believes the wise minority must protect the foolish majority from their own incompetence?

And that is, sadly, the message contained in far too many children's films. Of course, as I said, it is not exactly an uncommon plotline. And you can see why. It is a popular fantasy among teens, preteens and their equivalents. To be the only one who sees the truth, who is ignored by others5, and is finally vindicated in the end, it is the stuff of many teen day dreams. What is troubling is how many adults also find this an appealing dream, and, worse, how many have founded a political philosophy based upon little more than this juvenile delusion.

Then again, I have argued many times the philosophical basis of much of modern politics is disturbingly juvenile, so this merely serves to make that case6. I suppose I should not be surprised.


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1. See also "The Condescention of Understanding", "Liberalism, "Idealists" and Internal Contradictions", "Humility and Freedom", "Outsider Art", "Eurocentrism? Racism? Liberal Traits All", "I Don't Get It. Actually, I Do, and It Is Horribly Insulting", "Arrogance", "The Essence of Liberalism", "Arrogance and Gun Control", "Apology as Arrogance", "Big Government, Arrogance and Part-Time Psychopathy", "The Problem of Established Perspectives ",  "Hard Cases Make Bad Law", "Man's Nature and Government", "Seeing People as Stupid", "Our View of Our Fellow Citizens", "Individual and Aggregate", "Those Other People", "Another Look At Exploitation", "Common Sense,Philosopher Kings, Arbitrary Law and Dictatorship", "Help and Harm", "Hard Cases Make Bad Law", "In Loco Parentis", "The Case for Small Government", "Harming Society",  "De Gustibus Non Disputandum Est", "The Life Coach Culture", "The Great 'What If?' - Advertising, Gullibility, Education, Capitalism and Socialism" and "For Your Own Good -- The Problem with Subjective Rights".

2. I often think this is why so many liberals are willing to tolerate Churchill, even though the views he held would have been absolutely abhorrent to them. Because he spent such a long time "in the wilderness" he is a perfect fit for their elitist world view, and they can't help but have a soft spot for him, despite his views. And it doesn't hurt that he had a fondness for pithy witticisms that also fit with their idea of what is "clever". (See "The Era of the Cocky Know It All ".)

3. The film is surprisingly honest then the turtle denounces the raccoon, but in so doing is a bit too honest, calling the others "stupid and naïve". It is interesting because it does quite clearly explain the foundation of interventionist beliefs, and, more than that, it also is rather true to life, as, though it works at times to their detriment, those on the left many times simply cannot help but express their true feelings, and end up running down those "other people" for their lack of intelligence. (See  "Intellect and Politics".)

4. See "The Most Misleading Word", "Luxury and Necessity", "Res Ipsa Loquitur", "A Question of Fairness", "Protean Terminology", "One More Meaningless Word and Its Consequences", "Confucius, Aedes Aegypti, Pluto, Sub-Species, Conservatives and Republicans", "Misunderstanding Arbitrary Definitions", "Weasel Words and Hollow Words", "Semantic Games", "Misleading Terminology", "Smoking Versus Sex -- Want and Need Take Two", "Can We Ban the Word 'Scarce'?", "Government by Emotion" and  "Selfishness as Reason - 'Wants', 'Needs', 'Fairness' and Other Guises for Arbitrary Decisions".

5. Is it not the cliché that every teen cries "you'll miss me when I'm gone"? Is it not almost the same to claim "you'll see how right I was"?

6. See "An Immature Society", "The Presumption of Dishonesty", "Deadly Cynicism", "Self-Serving Cynicism and Our Cultural Immaturity", "Life Is Not Fair - And Trying To Make It So Makes Things Worse",  "The Threat of Perfection", "Utopianism and Disaster","Catastrophic Thinking, The Political, Economic and Social Impact of Seeing History in the Superlative", "All Life in a Day, or, How Our Mistaken View of History Distorts Our Understanding of Events.", "Shameless", "In Defense of Standards" , "Addenda to "In Defense of Standards"" , "O Tempora! O Mores!, or, The High Cost of Supposed Freedom" , "A Bit of Clarification" , "Our Unique Age, A Tempting Falsehood" , "Inversion of Traditional Values",   "Cranky Old Man?", "Faux "Maturity"", "Pushing the Envelope", "I Blame the Romantics", "The Adoration of Youth", "Juvenile Intellectuals" and "Trophy Spouses".

A Brief Thought on Skepticism

Generally, I think of myself as a skeptic. (Cf "Some Thoughts About a Specific Conspiracy Theory, or Maybe Two", "GMO Revisited - As Well as Hormones, Soy, Phytoestrogens, and a Host of Other Food Scares", "The Gadarene Swine Fallacy", "The Appeal of Conspiracy Theories", "Backwards Thinking and the Number of the Beast", "Ritual Abuse, Backwards Logic and Conspiracy Theories","False Flag Theories and 9/11", "Backwards Logic", "Maybe Obama Was Born in Gulf Breeze, Florida", "Can Hawaiians Travel Overseas?", "Conspiracies Vs. Conspiracy Theories", "Sleight of Hand", "Self-Sustaining Beliefs", "Mumia, the DaVinci Code, Full Body Scans, and Loose Change - How Conspiracy Theories Arise"and "Conspiracy Theories".) I deny the validity of Birther claims (though initially I gave a fair hearing to claims about the birth certificate, but quickly dismissed them, and never accepted the rest.). I believe Oswald shot Kennedy, and Ruby shot Oswald, all of their own volition for reasons they alone know for sure, but none involving any sort of conspiracies. I believe vaccinations are good. GMOs are safe. 9/11 was carried out by 19 men sponsored by al Qaida, and so on. However, when I look at self-described "skeptic" sites, I begin to wonder. First, the rampant atheism worries me. Not because individual skeptics are atheist, or even personally espouse atheism, but because they seem to set it forth as the only acceptable position, while I thought the question of religious faith was, in philosophical terms, unfalsifiable, and hence not open to scientific inquiry. I have no problem objecting to, say, creationism, young earth theories and so on, but to simply advocate atheism seems outside the remit of proper skepticism.(Cf "Is The Flying Spaghetti Monster From Canada?", "A Bit Disappointed in CSICOP - The Difference Between God and UFOs" and "Atheism's Circular Reasoning".)

But that is small potatoes compared to the other issue. Why are skeptics so quick to assume liberal political belief is "rational"? It started to come to my attention when so many skeptics accepted the disputed "hockey stick" graph and talked about climate change "deniers" as conspiracy theorists. Now, I grant, there are some who find a conspiracy in anything,but to simply question why the IPCC relies on a chart which does not show the historically documented warm and cool periods over the past 1000 years, or models which fail when run over historical data hardly puts one in the category of truthers or those promoting Bilderberger plans for world domination. (See "Why "Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst" is Bad Policy".)

And it gets worse. Just check out the supposed "rational" wiki and look up neoconservative or Dennis Prager and see the venting of liberal bile. And no, I am not saying Prager is correct, or a paragon of truth, but note the same treatment is not accorded, for example, the much less reliable Michael Moore. It seem their skepticism is limited to those who espouse limited government. (And they also seem to equate this with war mongering and all manner of other ills. Buying into a "conspiracy theory" of their own making.)

I could go on, but I realize writing when I am annoyed makes for bad text. So, let me just ask one question: Liberalism is based upon the premise that the state must protect us. However, if we are too incompetent to fend for ourselves as individuals, why do we suddenly gain the ability to make correct decisions when acting as a group? And why are those too incompetent to decide for themselves as private citizens suddenly competent to wield power when elected to office or appointed to a bureaucracy? How is belief in such a mystical transformation from endlessly incompetent to "the magic bureaucrat" a skeptical position? (Cf "Common Sense,Philosopher Kings, Arbitrary Law and Dictatorship", "Socialism, Communism, Democracy, Authoritarianism and Freedom - Is It Possible to Have a Non-Authoritarian Socialism?" and "The Problem of Established Perspectives".)

POSTSCRIPT

To be completely honest, I suppose I believe a second "conspiracy" theory. I accept reports of shells filled with ricin and other agents as proof Saddam did have WMDs, even thought they were "old". I also think his dual use pipes and other items were intended for a nuclear program. I don't think he actually had the technical know-how to pull it off, but I think he believed he did. And, I do not accept Foggy Bottom claims he was not intending such, as the same people told us Iran did not have a nuclear weapons program, at least until they admitted they did. People who drop the ball on something that large are not the best guides, especially when they have engaged in rather partisan leaks and the like. So, guess I am a "conspiracy theorist". Then again, the "skeptics" believe in "neocon warmongering", which I find absurd. No one wants war, some of us just recognize it is not the ultimate evil, there are worse outcomes than war.

Beyond this belief in WMDs and my "climate change denial", the only other conspiracy theories I ever entertained were (1) I accepted the idea that FDR may have manipulated us into Pearl harbor, though I was 17 at the time, and a liberal, and decided it was nonsense after a few hours of thought (and even then was only convinced, and only slightly, by my grandfather's tales of unsuccessful evacuation drills in Pearl Harbor during the 1930s) and (2) I agreed with a very limited bit of Holy Blood, Holy Grail (again, when 17 or 18), but only to the extent that I accepted Jesus may have intended the "King of the Jews" bit literally, not figuratively, but even that I accepted only as possible, not certain, and I never bought the rest of the whole "blood line of Jesus/Priory of Sion/everything else Dan Brown ripped off" nonsense. Beyond that, I have a hard time thinking of any conspiracies I have accepted. Though, apparently, being a conservative is buying into an irrational belief, so paint me a conspiracist, I guess.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Hypocritical Government

I know I hold a minority view in believing the government exists solely to protect individual rights and should never undertake actions to stop "bad" behavior that does not violate the rights of another (eg. drug use, prostitution, gambling, etc), but I have to say, in many cases, the arguments offered for laws intended to protect citizens from themselves, to try to supposedly save them from their own bad decisions, make absolutely no sense. So much so that even those who do not agree with my basic thesis must see the problem. At least so I imagine, though often discussions have shown me that others sometimes don't quite see what I do.

A great example is to be found in laws about gambling.

For our purposes, let us use the laws as they now existed, and existed over the past three decades or so, in the state of Maryland, as I know them better than any other, and, though perhaps slightly more hypocritical due to the horse racing industry, are neither especially hostile towards gambling, nor especially lenient.

When I was younger, from the 1970s through most of the 1980s, Maryland had laws which it shared with most of the nation. Gambling was illegal, be it a casino, a friendly poker game, a slot machine or an office pool. Obviously, the law was rarely enforced in the smaller cases, with few police ever busting midnight card games or Super Bowl pools, but, at least nominally, all such actions were illegal. And the argument was the same offered in most other states as well. Gambling tempted "the weakest among us", taking their money away, often from those who could least afford it, and thus needed to be banned.

Before I go on, I would like to note how well this argument matches what I have previously dubbed the stereotypical liberal argument*. The problem is the fault of mysterious "other people", the listener is excluded from blame, he and the speaker are part of the wise elite who must guide the less wise to the proper course of action. And, so as not to appear to be "blaming the victim", these people are identified as "the weakest among us". (Which, quite patronizingly, is equated with poverty by discussing how they can ill afford it. A strange position for a supposed liberal to take, though, in truth, condescension is not that unusual on the left**.) The argument implies, though never states, wise souls such as ourselves could choose to gamble, and would do so without harm, but we must forgo this option for the sake of these poor benighted souls.

But let us put aside the patronizing tone of the argument for a moment, and look instead at the simple logic of it. Gambling is in some way a danger to some group of people, something they cannot resist, which does them harm, and thus they must be protected against it. It is a consistent argument. Not one with which I would agree, mind you, nor one I think consistent with either man's nature, or the nature of reality, and certainly contrary to what I believe to be the purpose of government, but on its own terms, if you accept the underlying premises, it is fully consistent.

Until you recall that in the 70s and 80s Maryland law allowed an exception for charities holding casino nights.

Now if gambling is dangerous, a siren song for the wrong sort of people, inevitably crushing them upon the rocks of bankruptcy, what difference does it make who runs the games and for what purpose? If we ban gambling because it is harmful, how does it become benevolent, or at least innocuous, when the money goes to charity? That would be akin to allowing a YMCA crack house, or permitting the Girl Scouts to perform murder for hire. If it is dangerous, it is dangerous, and if that is the logic by which a ban is justified, then the motive of those operating the dangerous activity makes no difference***.

But, some might argue, perhaps the exception is allowed because, though still potentially harmful, most casino nights are one time events, not regular activities, and have relatively small stakes. As such, even someone highly likely to be harmed by gambling could suffer little harm, as he would have but a single night, and strict limits on wagers, and thus the benefits of allowing charities to run such events outweighs the potential harm.

Which would make sense did not Maryland also allow wagering five days a week, all day long, at the state's horse tracks. And run a once a day lottery, later adding a four digit version to the three digit one, and then moving to two drawings a day, as well as a weekly (later twice weekly) Lotto with million dollar or more jackpots. And in the late 80s added a keno game, played in bars, restaurants, nightclubs, stores and elsewhere, with drawings every five minutes. Granted, the funds from the lotteries all benefited the state, nominally going to education***, but still, it is hard to argue such a wealth of gaming options prevented the supposed "weakest among us" from doing themselves harm.  In fact, if you accept the logic of the gambling ban, it is hard to come to any conclusion other than that the state was financing itself -- and the politically influential horse racing industry -- at the expense of those it claimed to protect.

The absurdity of this was most obvious when the debates opened on allowing casino gambling in Maryland****. To hear politicians arguing that gambling would hurt Maryland, would impoverish the citizens and so on, at the same time they were expanding to two lottery drawings a day, was too much for anyone to take them seriously. To say with a straight face "we cannot allow gambling to COME TO Maryland", after authorizing horse races, lotteries, lottos, kenos and the occasional charity casino night, is just absurd*****.

It gets even more absurd. In recent years, losing revenue to slot machines in neighboring Delaware and West Virginia (as well as Atlantic City casinos, which had drawn off revenue for even longer), and with the slot revenue at horse tracks in neighboring states threatening Maryland's racing industry -- the revenues from slots allowing large purses, while attracting bigger crowds -- Maryland finally decided to allow first slots and later some casino gambling, at least in a few limited venues. At first, I took this as a triumph for common sense -- at least a limited one. Granted, the state was still strictly regulating the allowable number of casinos, and thus implicitly treating gambling as some sort of suspect activity, but at least it was confessing, after decades of lotteries and horse racing, casino gambling would not be the end of the world.

Until today, that is. Today, I saw what had to be the most absurd news item yet. Maryland, now allowing not only charitable casino nights, lotteries, horse racing, lotto and keno, but slot machines and casinos, was set to go after on line fantasy football, because it was illegal gambling! In other words, despite all the types of gambling now permissible, Maryland was still bent on enforcing a law predicated upon the idea that gambling is a danger! I cannot think of a more absurd or hypocritical legal stand.

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* See "Liberalism, Its Origins and Consequences", "Hard Cases Make Bad Law", "Man's Nature and Government", "Seeing People as Stupid", "Our View of Our Fellow Citizens", "Individual and Aggregate", "Those Other People", "Another Look At Exploitation", "Common Sense,Philosopher Kings, Arbitrary Law and Dictatorship", "Help and Harm", "Hard Cases Make Bad Law", "In Loco Parentis", "The Case for Small Government", "Harming Society", "Smoking Versus Sex -- Want and Need Take Two", "De Gustibus Non Disputandum Est", "The Life Coach Culture", "The Great 'What If?' - Advertising, Gullibility, Education, Capitalism and Socialism" and "For Your Own Good -- The Problem with Subjective Rights".

** See "The Condescention of Understanding", "Liberalism, "Idealists" and Internal Contradictions", "Humility and Freedom", "Outsider Art", "Eurocentrism? Racism? Liberal Traits All", "I Don't Get It. Actually, I Do, and It Is Horribly Insulting", "Arrogance", "The Essence of Liberalism", "Arrogance and Gun Control", "Apology as Arrogance", "Big Government, Arrogance and Part-Time Psychopathy" and "Intellect and Politics".

*** This ruse always amuses me. It is a subterfuge which fools a surprising number of people, yet one I would normally think would be too obvious to enjoy such success. Even if the law is written in an air tight way (and most are not), even if money cannot be "laundered" into other uses, allocating funds exclusively to education -- at least as long as those funds represent 100% or less of normal allocations -- means nothing. After all, for every lottery dollar "dedicated" to education, another dollar budgeted for education can be allocated to something else. It is surprising how many forget this, but money is fungible, and until the lottery income exceeds all other monies allocated, adding a dollar of dedicated lottery money does nothing but free another dollar from a different part of the budget for other uses. In short, it is meaningless.

**** As I describe in "A Most Dishonest Debate", there was also a political element involved, so some of the dishonesty was deception of another stripe. Casinos were first seriously raised by Bob Ehrlich, our first Republican governor in some time. And, not surprisingly, the Democratic legislature treated the proposal as if he had suggested using cannibals to cater school lunch programs. When he left office, and was replaced by safely Democratic Martin O'Malley, suddenly a fair number of those who decried gambling as worse than murder suddenly saw it as fiscal common sense. However, the reason I mention this at all, is a number of Democrats, despite party ties, did continue to decry gambling, making the absurd sort of arguments I described.

***** In truth, even if we had no gambling, the correct term would have been "return to", as Maryland had once had legal slot machines.

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POSTSCRIPT

Even before legal gambling came to Maryland, there was quite a bit of small scale illegal gambling as well. For example, when I worked as a bartender in the early 1990s at a small, rather middle brow yacht club, we had a number of video poker machines. The machines, quite obviously, could not be allowed to pay out on winning hands. However, they were set up to award "credits" for each win, allowing the players, when they grew tired, to ask the staff to "refund" their remaining money, which basically worked the same way a pay out would have. And I saw similar subterfuges, as well as a great deal of outright flaunting of anti-gambling laws -- throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

POSTSCRIPT II

Some may argue that the laws exist because the state worries about "rigged" or "fixed" games, and wants to control gambling to keep games honest. However, the evidence contradicts that. First of all, the words of the politicians themselves are not about the risks of rigged games, but rather the harm gambling does to individuals and families. Second, if that was the concern, then why disallow small office pools and private poker nights? Are these really likely venues for card sharps and other criminals? Third, if the worry is over fairness, then is not the solution* what we currently have? Gambling allowed but regulated and monitored by the state? After all, if cheating is your worry, a regulated, licensed gaming environment is less likely to include cheating than an underground, ad hoc, likely criminal controlled gambling environment such as exists when it is illegal. No, the laws and the words of the politicians do not support this argument.

* In truth, the best solution is to simply allow gambling. The law should be used -- appropriately -- to prosecute for fraud when real cheating is discovered, but for the most part, casinos, or other games, which pay out too infrequently or offer odds that are too long, will quickly develop their own bad reputation and be driven out by less suspect games. It may take time, but then again regulators do not guarantee all problems will be instantly identified and resolved either, so I never see why the delays of free market solutions are held up as flaws. (See "The Free Market Solution", "There Are Other Solutions", "Zero Sum Games", "Government Quackery", "Planning for Imperfection", "Competition", "The Basics", "Greed Versus Evil", "The Free Market Solution", "Two Sided Processes and Claims of 'Unfair' Outcomes", "A New Look at Intervention", "Selfishness as Reason - 'Wants', 'Needs', 'Fairness' and Other Guises for Arbitrary Decisions", "Weasel Words and Hollow Words", "The Limits of "Scientific" Management", "The Case for Small Government", "Fairness and the Free Market", "Capitalism and Its Consequences", "Another Look At Exploitation", "Third Best Economy", "The Gadarene Swine Fallacy", "Denying Reality", "The Threat of Perfection", "Utopianism and Disaster", "Two Examples of "Inefficiency" in Capitalism", "Misunderstanding the Market", "The Secret of Success, or, Why Government Fails", "Imperfect Competition, Abstraction and Anti-Trust", "Technology and 'Natural Monopolies'", "Unfair Advantage and Foreign Trade", "The Importance of Error", "Adaptability and Government" and "Redundancy as a Protective Measure".)

Monday, November 2, 2015

One Sided Perspectives

It is interesting to me how often you hear statements such as "You're a conservative, of course you deny global warming*," while rarely hearing the opposite, that one's liberalism clearly entails specific beliefs. Not only does it imply that conservatism involves, not reasoned positions, but rather knee jerk, irrational, rote beliefs, but it also suggests that the liberal positions, being well reasoned and thought through, are the beliefs of the common man, or at least the educated one**.

The first implication is clearly the most prominent, that being that conservative, rather than thinking through issues and coming to independent conclusions, simply adopt a politicized slate of beliefs, without any thought, the additional implication being that such beliefs would likely not withstand critical analysis. Of course, this is completely absurd for any number of reasons. First, it is quite possible a given belief could be associated with conservatism, not because all conservatives blindly adopt it, but rather because those who believe it tend toward conservative positions. For example, free market supporters tend toward conservatism (or libertarianism, but let us ignore that for now). Thus, it would be absurd to assume conservatives just adopt free market beliefs, as it is far more likely those beliefs drove them to conservatism. Second, it is also possible that, rather than a given belief being explicitly conservative, that instead the contrary belief is a liberal orthodoxy, and thus anyone holding the contrary view is seem as conservative. And that is, at least in part, the case here. It is not so much that conservatives deny AGW, as that a specific set of beliefs have become liberal orthodoxy, and anyone promoting a contrary view is dubbed a conservative "denier".

That second point brings us to the other implication, and one that is a bit troubling.  While it is true that a certain set of, rather extreme, beliefs about AGW are pretty much a litmus test of one's liberalism***, and thus the fact that conservatives hold differing opinions is not so much due to their conservatism, as due to the lack of a need to uphold that dogma, there is another side to the matter. It seems the mainstream also holds to the liberal line, or, at least among those who have no truly strong opinions, who have neither staked out an ideological claim, or undertaken any research into the matter. Thanks to the media, government and much of academia, the most extreme AGW positions have been placed firmly in the public consciousness, at least among those with a casual interest or less.

This is a problem for conservatives, and not just because it shows to what degree the left is winning in the popular culture. It is a problem because, in recent years, I have noticed a growth of what I dubbed the "Angry Right", our version of the angry left we saw so much in 2000 and 2004. This angry right has one serious problem (well, more than one, but one that is relevant here), and that is a tendency to see those holding any liberal beliefs, not as misguided, confused, or potential converts, but rather as the enemy, to assume anyone espousing liberal positions is not wrong, but evil, motivated by dishonest and sinister motives. And thanks tot his belief, a small but very vocal element among conservatives has essentially given up on reaching out to the left, attempting to convince them of their mistakes, and win back those who have accepted left wing beliefs****.

That would be a dangerous belief under almost any circumstances, but is especially dangerous today. As I have demonstrated with AGW beliefs, the left still has a strong hold on popular culture, despite the rise of "the new media", and thus, for the most part, those without a strong political identity tend to accept the left's view on any number of issues. So if we choose to view anyone holding left wing beliefs as the enemy, to circle our wagons and allow none of them in, then that would mean writing off a significant majority of the American public, and condemn conservatism to become an insular minority, one growing smaller -- and politically less relevant -- year by year.

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* I won't discuss it here, but it is fascinating how the debate has been framed in terms of "global warming deniers", to place those who question specific conclusions in the same camp as Holocaust deniers and other fringe beliefs. Given how many perfectly reputable scientists, especially among climatologists, disagree with various elements of the doomsday story which dominates the public story about AGW, it seems a bit bizarre to call anyone who disagrees with the media's Chicken Little tale a "denier". I also note there is not similarly insulting term for those pushing the specific, excessively extreme version so popular among politicians and the media.

** It is hard to tell whether liberals imagine their belief is supported by the public at large or some educated elite. Given their tendency to view themselves as an elite within the populace ("Arrogance", "The Essence of Liberalism", "Arrogance and Gun Control", "Man's Nature and Government", "Seeing People as Stupid", "Our View of Our Fellow Citizens", "Individual and Aggregate", "Those Other People", "The Condescention of Understanding",  "Liberalism, "Idealists" and Internal Contradictions", "Humility and Freedom", "Outsider Art", "The Problem of Pornography", "Lying Politicians and "Other People"", "Selfishness as Reason - "Wants", "Needs", "Fairness" and Other Guises for Arbitrary Decisions", "Liberalism, Its Origins and Consequences""Apology as Arrogance", "Big Government, Arrogance and Part-Time Psychopathy", "Intellect and Politics"), probably the latter, though in truth, by pushing their agenda through the mass media, their position is held by the "unthinking masses" they imagine despise them, rather than their imaginary intellectual vanguard.

*** If you doubt this is true, visit liberal blogs and just note the venom they spew upon "climate change deniers". It seems questioning the hockey stick graph or claims of multi-degree temperature increases in the next century makes one subject to worse abuse than racists, sexists, homophobes and others that normally receive such verbal abuse. It is actually rather shocking to read the amount of abuse heaped upon people for simply holding differing beliefs on a scientific question. (And one that non-politicized scientists agree is far from settled.)

**** See "The Path of Least Resistance" and "Technophobes and Conservatives -- The Risk of Assumptions".